Treasure Baskets

General Rule: No Plastic!

Treasure BasketChildren need to experience the sensation of touch. In this day and age most toys are plastic – smooth and uniform. How do you know what prickly means if you’ve never felt it? It is our responsibility as practitioners to give the children these experiences, in a safe, controlled environment. The treasure basket is full of sensations for the baby, from cold and heavy to wooden or shiny. Our role is to provide the experience and support the learning.

How to use the treasure basket

Have the babies sat comfortably in a circle, with support if they aren’t sitting confidently by themselves. The practitioners sit behind the babies, ready to intervene if necessary. Your role is to sit back and watch.

The treasure basket is put in the middle of the circle, so the babies can reach inside it easily. Allow them to explore each item. A baby may choose just to play with one, or may look at every item.

Sit back and watch.

Practitioners should be watching, but not talking. This is a fabulous time to make observations for profiles/learning journeys and taking photos. Allow plenty of time for the babies to investigate the whole basket. This could be 45 minutes or an hour! If you feel that something is dangerous then intervene.

A word on health and safety

Obviously as a practitioner you are not going to place your children in harm’s way. Some of these objects may be considered to be potentially dangerous, particularly for babies who are still putting things in their mouths. You know your children and what you would be happy for them to experience. You know which ones will always chew first, ask questions later, or see any object as a weapon! This is entirely at your discretion.

Items should be cleaned regularly and thrown away if broken or considered dangerous.

Treasure baskets should be treated with respect. They are best used maybe a couple of times a week, no more. This means the babies stay interested each time. You could also have several different baskets, with a theme such as shiny or wooden.

The Contents of the Treasure Basket

Items you might like to use for treasure baskets:
Fir cones
Pebbles (large)
Large chestnuts and shells


Natural block
Egg cup
Raffia ornaments
Pastry brush


Bunch of measuring spoons
Tea strainer
Chains (different sizes and textures)
Large empty tin
Small saucepan


Natural brushes
Leather goods
Fabrics of all  sorts – include ribbon, lace, velvet
Ceramic balls
Furry items
Balls – tennis, golf
Thick glass – ashtray, candle holder

Smelly bags eg lavender, cloves, cinnamon

These are just a few ideas. Once you start going round your home and nursery you will see lots of things you can use. The kitchen is usually full of ‘treasures’, from ladles to wood spoons to pastry brushes.

You do not need to spend a fortune. Your biggest outlay may be the basket. Mine cost £8 from Au Naturale. The rest could be potentially free. Ask your parents, look for safe objects in the £1 shop.


Featherstone, S (2002) The little book of Treasure Baskets Featherstone Education Ltd
Goldschmeid, E and Jackson, S (1994) people under three – young children in day care Routledge, Oxon
Hughes, A (2006) Developing play for the under 3’s – the treasure basket and heuristic play David Fulton Publishers, Oxon


The Learning Together Programme (LTP) from PEEP (Parents Early Education Partnership) aims to help parents and carers to:
value and extend learning opportunities in everyday life
improve the quality of the Home Learning Environment
develop secure attachment relationships with their babies and children
gain credit-rated qualification units based on supporting their child’s learning and development.

It has some great ideas in general and the page on treasure baskets is very practical

http://www.contentedchild.co.uk/howtouse.htm The contented child site has lots of useful ideas and comments.
http://www.playtoz.co.uk/ You can buy books and resources from this site


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  • Julie Jun 2,2019 at 5:09 pm

    Hi Kathy, this is fantastic and I love treasure baskets, having produced a poster and leaflet for my foundation degree. I am currently trying to promote them in our school coffee mornings that are attended by many parents who have children in my nursery. I have used my old resources but would it be possible to include your page too? Obviously it would be referenced.

  • Cheryl O'Reilly Jul 7,2018 at 9:27 pm

    I totally agree that treasure baskets promote joint attention. However, your suggestion that this is a good time for observing / taking photos rather detracts from this. Advice from the original creator Goldschmeid was that you remain attentive and ready to make eye contact in a reassuring way. You may miss these cues if distracted. Your advice on the content of a basket is practical and useful though.

  • Kadidia Jun 18,2018 at 1:11 pm

    Thanks a lot, your are very helpful.

  • Teresa Lagrutta Dec 16,2017 at 2:22 pm

    Hi Kathy,
    Many thanks for everything you’re giving me wonderful ideas to improve my practice. I am really learning a lot reading your email but this has opened my mind to do different things.

    • Kathy Apr 14,2018 at 10:52 am

      You are very welcome Teresa!
      Best wishes

  • Manjit Mar 19,2016 at 3:43 pm

    Hi Kathy,
    I found this web page on treasure baskets very useful. I had a question. Are treasure baskets useful for developing a baby’s communication and language? And if so, may I please understand why? Thank you.

    • Kathy Mar 19,2016 at 8:50 pm

      Hi Manjit,
      Very briefly: having joint attention e.g. both participants gazing at the same object is part of social and communication interactions. Treasure baskets are great for this, as the baby picks up the object and turns to look at their carer.
      Language and vocabulary can be expanded by naming objects together.
      Having the sensory experiences (feeling the cold metal, prickly brush, smooth wood etc.) means the children have the experience to refer to when you later introduce this language into their expanding vocabulary.
      Hope that helps,

  • Sue Gascoyne Jan 13,2015 at 7:18 pm

    Hi Tracey Anything that a child plays with is technically classified as a toy by the Toy Safety Standards so it isn’t sufficient to simply label a Treasure Baskets as not a toy and to be used with adult supervision. All our Play to Z treasure baskets have been rigorously safety tested in accordance with EN71. This means from a humble wooden spoon to a handmade treasure, everything has been drop, Newton, chemical and fire tested to give parents and practitioners peace of mind. Sadly picking beautiful treasures is only part of the story. If I’m being honest there are definitely easier products to create! Good luck with your venture. You may be interested in my book Treasure Baskets and Beyond Unlocking the Potential of Sensory Play which goes into lots of detail based on a range of research.

    • Kathy Jan 18,2015 at 8:00 pm

      Thanks so much for the clarification Sue. I would also recommend your book!

  • Tracey Aug 1,2014 at 12:32 pm

    Hi , I have worked in childcare for 15 years and looking to start up my own business selling homemade treasure baskets , was looking for a bit of advice including would product have to be safety checked before selling ?

    • Kathy Aug 1,2014 at 3:11 pm

      Hi Tracey,
      Great to hear from you.
      I don’t know the regulations about selling products, you will need to take specialist advice I’m afraid.
      Sorry I can’t be more help on this occasion,
      Best of luck with the business,

  • Rachel Wedgbury Jul 4,2012 at 9:19 am

    I thought this was neatly summed up so have included in my blog!

  • Deb Chitwood @ Living Montessori Now Jan 20,2011 at 12:49 am

    Thank you for sharing so many wonderful ideas for creating treasure baskets! I featured your post at http://livingmontessorinow.com/2011/01/18/how-to-make-a-treasure-basket-for-your-baby/

  • myra argentieri Apr 13,2010 at 11:41 am

    thank you a really useful ltraining tool i have passed on to staff

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